COVID-19 School Reopening in Thailand
While Thailand successfully managed to keep COVID-19 numbers very low early in the pandemic, cases began to spike in mid-2021 and continue to grow over the subsequent months. This led to government-mandated closures of school campuses from April onward and a directive to provide online learning as an alternative in order to ensure continuity in learning, with no set date for COVID-19 school reopening.
Like many other international schools in Bangkok, one of the regions hit hardest by the pandemic, NIST maintained an online learning model that included both synchronous and asynchronous elements. Varied by level, these opportunities allowed students to maintain a connection to their teachers and peers throughout the period of online learning.
The 2021-2022 school year began with Bangkok international schools still being required to continue online learning. In mid-October NIST received permission from the government to resume on-campus lessons with a hybrid model, and as of 8 November 2021 will be shifting to full on-campus learning for all students.
In making this transition, we not only seek to follow government guidelines, but also go above and beyond them to ensure the safety of all community members. This includes a self-set target of 100% vaccination for all employees, the arrangement of ongoing opportunities for vaccination of NIST families and eligible students, strict adherence to COVID-19 preventative measures on campus, and mandatory weekly antigen testing for all students and staff who will be on campus.
Vaccination & Testing
More than any other factors, vaccination and frequent testing play an essential role in slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. In order to receive approval for a COVID-19 school reopening, each institution was required to meet a key Thai government requirement: a vaccination rate of 85% among employees. We believe that all of our faculty and staff should be vaccinated to minimize risk. Currently, no mandate exists for student vaccinations, but we have sought to provide opportunities for this to our community through partner hospitals, including Bangkok Hospital, Bumrungrad Hospital, MedPark Hospital and Samitivej Hospital. Our nursing team also works closely with them for any positive cases identified in the community.
of our procedures and safety measures are in compliance with government requirements
of all students and employees must submit negative ATK results twice per week
of all NIST employees have been vaccinated, with many now receiving third booster shots
of all eligible students have been vaccinated, with more scheduled in the coming weeks
Campus Entry Requirements & Limitations
To ensure that we can maintain a safe environment for students and limit any potential spread of illness, campus access will currently be limited to students, faculty and staff. Parents and family helpers will not be allowed to enter the campus, except in cases in which those with children in the Early Years or Year 1 must walk them to our Early Years Centre in the morning. All other visitors can enter by appointment only, and must submit an antigen test result, and a health and safety declaration.
Students must have their temperature checked prior to leaving home. If this is above 37.5° C or if they show any signs of illness, they must remain at home. Everyone entering the campus has their temperature checked with thermal imaging cameras.
Weekly ATK testing
A antigen test kit (ATK) result must be submitted in Veracross for all students and employees each Sunday and Wednesday if they intend to be on the NIST campus. These must be ATKs approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration.
NIST ID cards
All community members must use their NIST-issued ID card to enter the campus. If an antigen test kit result has not been submitted for the week, the card will be automatically deactivated, and an ATK must be taken at the school before entering.
All community members on campus must strictly adhere to the required social distancing guidelines, wear masks except when eating, and maintain good hygiene by frequently washing their hands and using hand sanitizer.
Administering an Antigen Test Kit for Your Child
- Explain the test, and why it is important, to your child in simple terms.
- Reassure them that the process is brief, particularly if using a nasal swab.
- Show them one of the videos below to help them understand what will happen.
- Verbally check as you administer the test to ensure that they are okay.
Positive Case Protocol & Risk Assignment
To ensure that we can minimize any potential spread of COVID-19 at NIST, we maintain a clear policy and procedure for managing positive cases. This process is overseen by our COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Upon receiving a positive antigen test kit result, we conduct contact tracing to identify any other individuals who are at high, medium or low risk based on our risk assignment guide. When the result is confirmed via an RT-PCR test, the protocol for each risk level is confirmed. Depending on the type of contact, this may include daily ATK result submission and/or self-isolation.
If the positive case is identified as a student or teacher who was present on campus, we follow our classroom protocol in line with government requirements. This includes closing the classroom for a period of up to three days and shifting to online learning. Multiple cases would entail a classroom closure for a period based on government recommendations.
A Guide to Self-Isolating at Home
As Thailand and other countries continue to move toward a full reopening, with students returning to schools and parents returning to the workplace, we must begin learning how to live with COVID-19. Scientists and researchers predict that the illness will continue to spread sporadically within populations in the coming years. Therefore, we must anticipate that cases can and will occur within families, even as vaccination rates increase. Should you need to quarantine at home, the following recommendations may help in keeping your family safe.
Maintain social distancing
This can be challenging, particularly when you sometimes just want to give a family member a hug! However, it’s important to maintain social distancing when possible, as proximity is one of the most important factors in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The individual with COVID-19, or suspected to have it, should ideally remain in one room when self-isolating.
Wear a mask when together
A second crucial step is to wear masks whenever in the same room. As SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus, it can be transmitted through the fine droplets that are naturally expelled when we breathe and talk. The particles can remain suspended in the air for several hours, meaning you should also wear a mask if needing to enter the room that is being used for self-isolation or if doors are left open.
Wash your hands & clean surfaces
Research indicates a “99% reduction in infectious SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can be expected under typical indoor environmental conditions within 3 days (72 hours) on common non-porous surfaces like stainless steel, plastic, and glass”. However, this means that when staying in the same household as an infected individual, or someone suspected to have an infection, proper hygiene and cleaning is essential.
Wash utensils & other items frequently
Since the virus has been observed to survive longest on steel, plastic and glass for longer periods, it is suggested that you separate items used by the person with an infection or suspected infection, and take increased precautions when cleaning them. Spray them with alcohol immediately after use, wear gloves and ensure that you use sufficient soap and hot water.
Ensure there is good ventilation
Sufficient airflow has been shown to reduce the amount of virus particles on surfaces. Opening windows periodically throughout the day, as well as using fans, will help contribute to this. However, ensure that two separate airflows are maintained: one for the space being used for self-isolation and one for the remaining areas within your home or condo/apartment.
Avoid sharing bathrooms
The room being used for self-isolation should ideally have its own ensuite bathroom. If this is not possible, the second option should be designating one bathroom for the infected with the infection or suspected infection, and one for other family members. Should you not be able to do this, be sure to clean any shared bathroom after each use, and wear a mask at all times.
NIST COVID-19 School Reopening Plan
We know that vaccinations, strict campus access protocols and education are only the first steps in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our community. A full overview of government requirements, positive case protocols, modifications to our learning programme, schedules and class formats, and logistics can be found in the 2021-2022 NIST Campus Reopening Plan.
All NIST parents can also access the campus reopening page in the NIST Parent Portal on Veracross. This page provides clear expectations and guidelines for the campus entry requirements, a link to submit the weekly antigen test kit results, important details for differing sections and an explanation of how to identify your child’s group for the hybrid schedule.